UI students voice concerns to Iowa City Council candidates

Affordable housing, policing in the Iowa City community, sexual assault, and COVID-19 mitigation were topics discussed at a meet-and-greet between Iowa City Council Candidates and University of Iowa students on Tuesday.


Emily Delgado, News Reporter

University of Iowa students met to ask questions about affordable housing, policing, reformative justice, and more to all four Iowa City City Council candidates on Tuesday afternoon.

UI Undergraduate Student Government hosted the city council candidates at a meet-and-greet sponsored by Hawk the Vote, seven days before the Nov. 2 election.

At-Large candidates Mayor Bruce Teague, Megan Alter, and Jason Glass, as well as District B candidate Shawn Harmsen were all present at the event.

USG asked the candidates questions focused on the UI, and every candidate recognized their connection to the UI — all have attended the university at some point.

The first question USG asked was about affordable housing for students. All four candidates agreed that affordable housing is needed in the city.

“Yes, I do think that the city has a moral obligation to mentor students on housing and how they can afford it,” Alter said.

Glass said it is a sworn duty of city leaders to make sure their community is livable.

“And that’s for all residents, I consider students at the University of Iowa to be residents of our city, whether you live on campus or off, you’re part of our community,” he said.

USG members asked the candidates what their thoughts were on reformative justice and policing around Iowa City.

Harmsen said every community has structural racism and white supremacy and Iowa City is not immune to that.

“First, recognizing that those things exist, and then identifying ways to start dismantling those systems,” Harmsen said.

Sexual assault and its impact on the UI campus, specifically the “failure of city leaders to respond to sexual assault” was a question posed to the candidates.

Teague, as the only incumbent running for reelection, said he doesn’t believe the city has failed to address sexual assault issues.

“In our community, we have certainly a lot of programs that help sexual assault victims,” he said. “We have our police department that respond when there’s a sexual assault.”

Alter, the only woman running, recognized that although it’s not only a women’s issue, sexual assault is an issue with many layers. She said some solutions are educating potential attackers and working to attack the root causes, such as bar and campus culture.

After members of USG and Hawk the Vote, which helped sponsor the event, asked their questions, they opened the floor to students.

Abinadi Rivera-Aguire, a UI second-year student, voiced her concerns about policing and police officers’ interactions with minority populations.

Teague responded to her concern first and said he respects and understands Rivera-Aguire’s feelings.

Teague added that he personally doesn’t want the police to be removed. From his conversations with Black members of the community, he said, he has heard that people want to see police interactions changed in the community.

Lily Rosen Marvin, a UI fourth-year and social media director of Hawk the Vote, asked candidates about COVID-19 mitigation at the UI and around the city. All candidates voiced their disappointment with the state Board of Regents to not issue a mask mandate around Iowa universities.

“I think that it disappoints me, too, that we’re not having conversations about getting this done at all, and rallying together to get these things done, and to end this pandemic,” Glass said.

Glass said he doesn’t understand the controversy of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and other diseases that require vaccinations aren’t heavily debated.

The negative consequences of not having COVID-19 mitigation in place, such as the death of loved ones was something that Harmsen highlighted.

“We need to get to the point where we can take these annoying things off of our faces again,” Harmsen said.

Editor’s Note: Lily Rosen Marvin is a previous Daily Iowan reporter. A previous version of this story stated Alter said “educating potential victims.” This has been changed to reflect that she was discussing perpetrators of assault, not victims. The Daily Iowan regrets this error. 

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